Journey of Dreams


For the peaceful highlanders of Guatemala, life has become a nightmare. Helicopters slash like machetes through the once-quiet air. Soldiers patrol the streets, hunting down suspected guerillas. Villagers mysteriously disappear and children are recruited as soldiers. Tomasa’s family is growing increasingly desperate, especially after Mama goes into hiding with Tomasa’s oldest brother. Finally, after their house is razed to the ground and the villagers massacred, Tomasa, Manuelito, and baby Maria set off with ...
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For the peaceful highlanders of Guatemala, life has become a nightmare. Helicopters slash like machetes through the once-quiet air. Soldiers patrol the streets, hunting down suspected guerillas. Villagers mysteriously disappear and children are recruited as soldiers. Tomasa’s family is growing increasingly desperate, especially after Mama goes into hiding with Tomasa’s oldest brother. Finally, after their house is razed to the ground and the villagers massacred, Tomasa, Manuelito, and baby Maria set off with Papa on a perilous journey to find Mama and Carlos, only to discover that where one journey ends, another begins. This gripping novel tells the story of how Tomasa’s family survives the Guatemalan army's brutal regime and how, in the midst of tragedy, their love and loyalty — and Papa's storytelling — keeps them going on their harrowing journey as refugees to the United States. Mirrored in the tapestries of Tomasa’s dreams, the dramatic events of the Guatemalan army’s "scorched earth" campaign of the 1980s are tempered with hope and the generosity of the human spirit.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A modern Underground Railroad story." — ABC Best Books for Children

"An involving read, strong in the celebration of Mayan-inflected folklore and culture." — Financial Times

Publishers Weekly
Drawn from Pellegrino's work with Central American refugees, this dramatic novel opens in 1984, during the violent conflict between indigenous Guatemalans and the government, which (an author's note explains) resulted in the death of some 150,000 people and the destruction of hundreds of villages. More than 200,000 fled Guatemala, including narrator Tomasa, her father and two younger siblings, whose village burns as they escape. At once lyrical and starkly realistic, the tale chronicles this close-knit family's harrowing, furtive journey across their country, through Mexico and finally into the U.S. In the final stages, they are aided by Sanctuary Movement volunteers who shepherd refugees to safety. In Phoenix, the travelers have an emotional reunion with Tomasa's mother and older brother, Carlos, who both fled earlier, fearing Carlos would be forced to join the army. Fables Papa tells his children and Tomasa's dream sequences occasionally cause the pace to slacken, and Pellegrino's (Too Nice) imagery can be clunky (“The quiet in our village relaxes like a taut thread which has been cut”). Yet Tomasa's voice should easily draw readers into this eye-opening story. Ages 11–14. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Grounded in the author's own experiences working with a foundation that grew out of the Sanctuary Movement, Journey of Dreams chronicles the passage of its thirteen-year-old protagonist, Tomasa, to a new life when conflict forces her family from their highland home in 1980's Guatemala. Along with her father, brother and baby sister, Tomasa embarks on a desperate bid to find her mother and brother who have gone into hiding. The story plays out against the backdrop of intensifying battles between soldiers and guerillas. War is cast as a clear antagonist, as are the operatives of war, soldiers and guerillas alike. Pellegrino's writing is often perfectly tuned to the child narrator's sensibility: "…we reach the place where Guatemala and Mexico touch." She also paints in many subtle daubs of the shifting settings of Tomasa's harrowing journey: the huipil with blue and gold stripes, the typewriter men preparing papers for applicants outside the United States Embassy, the fountain in Mexico City. Some scenes resonate with greater clarity than others—the mood of panic in the river crossing frays only into confusion for the reader, possibly as a result of the extremely narrow scope afforded by the first person present tense narrative. Allies sometimes turn up a little too predictably, as well, occasionally keeping Tomasa from realizing the fictional dramatic potential of her lovingly drawn character. Still, the plot's twists and turns—young Manuel's anger, and the unexpected revelations of the woman Juana's ordeal—exemplify the lives of ordinary people caught up in horrific times and circumstances. Glossary and map are included in back matter. Reviewer: UmaKrishnaswami
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Fleeing their burned village in the Guatemalan highlands, 13-year-old Tomasa, her two brothers, and her storytelling father make their way first to the capital and then north to Mexico City and across another border to Arizona. They reunite with her mother and another brother, who are safe thanks to the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s. Artistic Tomasa loves to sketch and to re-create her world in her weaving and embroidery. Through her narrative, readers can envision her family and village life as well as the sights of her journey from the mountains to the cities and north to America. This well-paced first-person account is full of suspenseful moments, but also psychologically convincing as the author shows Tomasa consciously burying her own emotions while her younger brother, Manuel, adopts another woman in place of the mother who left him behind to save her 14-year-old from the army. Although Tomasa's journey takes a year, the pace moves along quickly. Still, there is room to recount Guatemalan folktales and show many details of village life as well as the refugee experience. A short background explanation, a glossary, and a map complete this harrowing but ultimately hopeful immigration story based on the author's work with refugees.—Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
Kirkus Reviews
Tomasa lives, then leaves, in fear. It is 1984, and her life in the Guatemalan highlands is threatened by a bloody, endless civil war. In the evenings, Tomasa and her family share stories and laugh, the healing power of storytelling encouraging them to overcome the terror. A green machine, sharp as a machete, whirs above their ni'tzja; planes rain chemicals on to the fields; green army pickup trucks kidnap Mayan boys; the villagers are afraid to speak. Tomasa's mother, Martina, does speak out and is forced to leave with her older son, Carlos. Praying and dreaming, Tomasa escapes with her Papa, her brother Manuelito and her little sister Mar'a. They walk for months, crossing fields and rivers, the border of Mexico and the Sonoran Desert, finding refuge at The Sanctuary and the possibility of reuniting with Martina and Carlos at the end of their journey. Pellegrino's great achievement resides in the authenticity of Tomasa's voice as a Mayan girl. This novel will captivate both Latin American survivors of civil war and their peers. Outstanding. (glossary of Spanish and Quiche, map) (Historical fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781845079642
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/13/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 429,743
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Marge Pellegrino jumped out of business and into the writing world in 1984. Passionate about sharing the power she’s found in words, she leads writers of all ages in workshops that make them think in new ways and discover their own voices. As a teaching artist, Pellegrino has been nominated for the Tucson Pima Arts Council’s Lumie Award 2008, Governor’s Award 2009, and named Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly, December, 2006. Her Word Journeys program at the Pima County Public Library was a finalist for the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ Coming Up Taller Award for excellence in after school programming in 2007 and won that distinction in 2008. She lives in Tucson, AZ.
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